Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976)

In a previous blog post Ashwin Willemse and the critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s I concluded that, maybe those so critical of South African rugby in the 1980’s like Gareth Stead, Pieter du Toit and Christi van der Westhuizen and others, are not fully aware of the strides made during that period already in starting to transform the sport, which yes still far from the ideal, in part laid the foundation for the post-Apartheid era of in rugby in South Africa and the full unification of the sport in 1992. I want to therefore highlight some of the milestones achieved in this regard (whilst fully acknowledging that it will not be a complete picture as SARU did not participate in any SARB sanctioned tournaments in the 1970’s/1980’s).

As background, rugby in South Africa was for a large part played on a segregated basis from 1886 until 1977. Separated rugby unions existed for the different racial groups during this period, the names of which changed a number of times over the years. This changed in November 1977, when the then coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), black South African Rugby Association (SARA) and white South African Rugby Board (SARB) amalgamated to form the non-racial South African Rugby Board. This unification meant that players of colour of the former SARFF and SARA unions could play in the mainstream competitions of the new non-racial SARB, which was affiliated to the International Rugby Board (IRB). The South African Rugby Union (SARU), under the leadership of Dullah Abass, on the other hand decided not to be part of the unification process and continued under the leadership of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) to make a case for “no normal sport in an abnormal society”.

I will in this first of two blog post provide an overview of international matches involving the Proteas [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF)], and the Leopards [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Association (SARA)] for the period 1971 to 1976. The purpose is to demonstrate that even before unification in 1977, rugby already made some progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport.

I will follow it up with a second blog post to highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

NON-RACIAL RUGBY PRIOR TO UNIFICATION IN NOVEMBER 1977

1971 – In December 1971 the Proteas embarked on a six-match tour of Britain and Holland – the first “coloured” rugby team to tour abroad. They achieved two wins, a draw and three losses. Cuthbert Loriston, the Proteas’ team manager and SARFF’s first president, explained that the purpose of the tour was ” ‘to test our strength’ and that the two wins, a draw, and three losses proved that ” ‘we have the technical know-how and enthusiasm to build strong opposition within the next five years'”. Loriston said that the next steps would be to play against white teams that tour South Africa, such as England’s intended visit in 1972; to play white South African teams; and then move towards integration of sports.

1972 – On 22 May 1972, the Proteas side lost narrowly 11 – 6 to John Pullin’s touring England side in Cape Town. England had undertaken a short, unbeaten seven match tour to the Republic and whilst the headlines in the UK were mostly about his side’s shock 18–9 test match victory against the Springboks, it should be noted that the Proteas versus England fixture is the first reported international rugby match in which coloureds played against whites on South African soil.

1972 – On 24 May 1972 the Leopards played against John Pullin’s touring England side in Port Elizabeth, losing by 36 – 3. The team was captained by Norman Mbiko Never-say-die Mbiko.

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Captain Norman Mbiko in action against the England touring side.

1973 – The Leopards played a test against the touring Italian national team in Port Elizabeth. For the Italians, who were undertaking a tour of the then Rhodesia and South Africa, it was only the second time that the Azzuris had ventured outside of Europe after a short tour of Madagascar, their 24-4 victory against the Leopards amounted to their only success of the nine matches played.

1974 – On Tuesday 4 June 1974 the Proteas played against the touring British Lions side at the Goodwood Showground in Cape Town. Fly-half Errol Tobias scored the only points (a penalty and a drop-kick) for the Proteas, who were beaten 37 – 6 by the visitors. The team included Hennie Shields, John Noble, Turkey Shields, and Doug Dyers. For the Lions, centre Dick Milliken, wing JPR Williams, lock Gordon Brown, flank and captain Fergus Slattery scored a try each. Fullback Andy Irvine (a conversion, three penalty kicks) and fly-half Alan Old (two penalties) also contributed.

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Errol Tobias in Protea colours 

1974 – On 9 July 1974 the Leopards met the British Lions at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdtantsane. The team was captained by hooker Thompson Magxala and included lock Liston Ntshongwana and Morgan Cushe at 8th Man. The lightweight Leopards were no match, losing 56-10 and often pleading with the referee not to award scrums against them. Still, they had talent: Toto Tsotsobe was a quicksilver winger, and Charles Mgweba a dangerous three-quarter. Their chief attacking weapon, however, was Morgan Cushe; the clash at Mdantsane would be the making of him.

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Willie John McBride leading out the Lions at the  Sisa Dukashe Stadium

Cushe was a master of the open game and prospered against the Lions, making a nuisance of himself defensively and intercepting a pass, only to be hauled down agonizingly short of the line. In one of the Leopards’ few attacking moves he hared downfield to hysterical shouts from the crowd before slipping the ball to Mgweba to score. The Springboks hadn’t managed a try in two tests, and the provinces were finding it increasingly difficult to breach the Lions’ line. For the 30 000 crowd the try was as sweet as a victory.

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Lions full-back Andy Irvine shaking hands with a Leopards captain, Thomas Magxala, after the match

1974 – The Leopards undertook the first tour by a black South African rugby team abroad when they embarked on their reciprocal month-long tour of Italy in 1974. The Leopards were also “the first South African team to tour Italy”. The squad had 25 players and played in six fixtures, winning one against Zebre in Milan, drawing against the Italian U23 side and losing four including a 25-10 defeat in the “test” defeat against the Italian national side in Brescia, the only occasion when the margin of loss was by more than one score.

Morgan Cushe in this article Selling out or scrumming down? describes the tour to Italy as one of his best rugby moments.

“His happiest tour was arguably to Italy with the Leopards in the months prior to the famous Mdantsane match against the Lions, when the Leopards played against Brescia, Lazio, the Dogi (an invitation side) and the Italians themselves on a six-match tour.

Finding himself in Rome on a day off, the girls chic and the cappuchinos smooth, Cushe spotted a jacket he just had to buy. Speaking no Italian, he looked frantically for the team’s bus driver, Luciano, to act as interpreter and find out the price. Luciano was nowhere to be found and at first Cushe lacked the courage to open up a conversation in pidgin Italian, worrying that the jacket might be bought by someone else.

But, eventually, he could wait no longer. He spent most of his meagre allowance on the purchase, bringing it home to South Africa like the blazer he never had.”

1975 – This year saw the French undertake an eleven match tour to South Africa which included two tests. Many of the 1974 Leopard team featured against the touring French side on 2 June 1975 when the teams met in Mdantsane with the French emerging as comfortable winners, 39-9.

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Morgan Cushe playing for the Leopards against the French touring side in 1975.

The captain of the Leopards against the French, Mpenduli “Liston” Ntshongwana, passed away in 2017 and SA Rugby paid tribute to former national skipper . He had pace, excellent handling skills and a massive kicking range. Contemporary sport writers described Ntshongwana as being “able to transform a beaten side into a lively set” and a versatile player as well as “a good leader, he runs well with the ball and tackles effectively”. Renowned former rugby historian, the late Vuyisa Qunta, listed Ntshongwana as one of the best Number 7 flankers in African rugby and therefore a sure choice for his ‘dream team’ after Ben Malamba.

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Mpenduli “Liston” Ntshongwana who captained the Leopards against the French

1975 – The French played their third tour fixture against the Proteas at Goodwood in Cape Town on 4 June 1975 winning by a comfortable 37–3 margin.

1975 – It was perhaps the events that unfurled at Newlands some three days which resonated louder when a South African Invitation XV, the first officially mixed-race team (containing white, black and coloured players) ever fielded in South Africa ran out 18–3 winners against the touring French side. Twenty-one-year old John Noble, one of the two Federation (Proteas) players in the side, scored the try of the match, running down the right wing like a shot from a cannon to swallow-dive onto Dawie Snyman’s grubber kick and score in the corner just before half-time. Prop Turkey Shields was the other Federation player in the Invitation XV while the Leopards (SARA) supplied wing Toto Tsotsobe and Morgan Cushe.

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John Noble on the far left together with his teammates (including Morgan Cushe) that would play against the 1976 All Blacks as members of a SA Invitation XV (see post below). Tommy Symons pictured far right played club rugby with my dad.

1976 – During the 1976 All Black tour of South Africa, the Proteas were defeated 25-3 by the tourists on a wet 7 July 1976 at Goodwood Oval in Cape Town before a crowd of 10,000.

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Lyn Jaffray scoring against the Proteas with Ronnie Louw and Clive Noble too late to stop him.

The full-strength All Black team included players such as Laurie Mains, Bill Osborne, Sid Going, Andy Leslie, Frank Oliver and Lawrie Knight. Among the Proteas were John Noble, Ronnie Louw and Charles Williams (who would later go on to represent the South African Barbarians side who toured Britain in 1979).

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Ronnie Louw of the Proteas playing for the SA Invitation XV against the All Blacks

One of the other Protea players was Piet Boonzaaier who played at lock and who described this match against the All Blacks as the highlight of his career, in fact he described it as a test. He passed away in 2017 and in this article Een van SA Rugby se grootes ten ruste gele his former teammates bemoaned the lack of respect he and others that played rugby under SARFF received for what they did for the cause non-racial rugby in South Africa prior to 1990 (both the Western Province Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Union failed to attend his funeral). After 1992 he supported the All Blacks in protest against the fact that the former SARFF players and administrators were sidelined in favour of those that were aligned the SACOS affiliated SARU.

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Piet Boonzaaier

1976 – The 1976 All Blacks touring team played the 4th match of the tour against a SA Invitation XV on 10 July 1976 at Newlands in Cape Town. The SA Invitation team lost 31 -24 and included four persons of colour including Ronnie Louw at full-back, John Noble on the wing, Morgan Cushe at flank and Broadness Cono at hooker.

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The multi-racial SA Invitation XV playing against the 1976 All Blacks, with Morgan Cushe, Ronnie Louw and John Noble looking on as the All Blacks scored a try

1976 – The touring All Blacks were the fifth touring overseas side to play against the Leopards. The fixture which took place on 31 August 1976 saw the New Zealanders running out comfortable winners 31-0 in Mdantsane. The Leopards side still contained seven of the line up which has featured against the 1974 British Isles side.

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Best of pals, Kent Lambert and Broadness Cona leaving the field after the Leopards match at East London. 

This concludes the first blog post about non-racial rugby in South Africa prior to 1990. In the next post I will highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

 

 

 

 

Ashwin Willemse and the critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s

A lot has already been said and written about the Ashwin Willemse incident and what might have led him to walk off the Super Sport set on 14 May 2018. Before leaving, Ashwin Willemse said that he was “not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid”, referring to Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, who were Springboks in the 1980’s.

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Nick Mallet, Ashwin Willemse and Naas Botha

I’m not going to write about this aspect, but rather about what certain commentators wrote in opinion pieces, following the incident, about rugby in South Africa in the 1980’s. I will point out specific instances where they have not been accurate with the truth and I will question why the need to support their points of view with falsehoods.

One such opinion piece is by Gareth Stead On Ashwin Willemse, AfriForum and the ‘whites only’ signs that are still there . His article was published on News24 on 21 May 2015.  He inter alia writes the following:

“The physical “whites only” signs were in your face during apartheid at beaches, public toilets, sports clubs, provincial sports teams (including WP and Northern Transvaal in the 1980’s when Mallett and Botha represented those two teams) (my emphasis). Watch a YouTube clip of a Currie Cup final between WP and Northern Transvaal in the 1980’s and ask yourself what is wrong with that picture? If you can’t see the “whites only” sign then my prayer is that you stop, look and listen a whole lot more. Perhaps you are in denial about how dehumanising and abnormal society was that so many of us grew up in.”

and …

“Effectively Nick and Naas are the quota players in that studio. The target for WP and Northern Transvaal was 100% white by law in those days. If Aswhin had played in the 1980’s he would never have played for either of those two teams or the Springboks, no matter how good he was (my emphasis).

If we had entered our democracy in 1980, would Nick and Naas have played for the Springboks? (my emphasis) Probably, but we will never know, will we? What if there had been a better black player in the No.8 jersey who had competed fairly for that position in WP at the time of Nick Mallett? Would we then know who Nick Mallett is today?”

In another article, Reaksie op Ashwin wys Wit Ontkenning, Onkunde Christi van der Westhuizen wrote inter alia as follows on Network24 on 24 May 2018 (freely translated to English):

“The public controversy about SuperSport presenter and former Springbok rugby player Ashwin Willemse, shows that he broke through a haze of white denial and touched a sore point about rugby in the apartheid era. (my emphasis)”

and ….

“The unhappiness of some white people is related to the fact that Willemse, as a black man, dared to uncover a toxic racial interaction. Part of this was his memory of the historical fact that Mallett and Botha played segregated rugby in the apartheid era (my emphasis).”

and ….

“The most unpleasant of Ashwin’s confrontation for those that were unhappy, was most probably him reminding everyone that white rugby players had to confront less competition during apartheid because other, possibly better, players were ruled out by their skin color (my emphasis).”

Let’s look at some of the facts. Yes, rugby in South Africa was played on a segregated basis from 1886 until 1977. Separated rugby unions existed for the different racial groups during this period, the names of which changed a number of times over the years. This changed in November 1977, when the then coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), black South African Rugby Association (SARA) and white South African Rugby Board (SARB) amalgamated to form the non-racial South African Rugby Board.

The South African Rugby Union (SARU), under the leadership of Dullah Abass, decided not to be part of the unification process and continued under the leadership of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) to make a case for “no normal sport in an abnormal society”. Who of the unified non-racial SARB or SARU had the most or best of the rugby players under their umbrellas at the time, remains a matter of much debate even today, but the SARU decision not to participate in the unification process in 1977 robbed the general rugby public from seeing a number of great SARU players in action (this article Rugby’s freedom fighters lists the 10 greatest players from SARU who may not have disgraced the Springboks).

The November 1977 unification meant that players of colour of the former SARFF and SARA unions could play in the mainstream competitions of the new non-racial SARB, which was affiliated to the International Rugby Board (IRB). As such they qualified to play provincial rugby or for any of the SARB affiliated national representative teams, including the Springboks.

Gareth Steads assertion therefore, that the target for WP and Northern Transvaal was 100% white by law in the 1980’s, is not correct. They and the other provincial unions playing under the SARB could select any rugby player on merit in the late 1970’s/1980’s and no law existed that prohibited this. In 1980 Errol Tobias for example played for Boland in the Currie Cup and Avril Williams and Wilfred Cupido played for Western Province from 1982 onward. Granted, especially in the beginning after unification, only a few players of colour made it into the provincial rugby teams.

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Wilfred Cupido (far right) playing for Western Province in the 1980’s

He is also wrong to assert that If Aswhin Willemse played in the 1980’s, he would never have played for either Northern Transvaal or Western Province or the Springboks, no matter how good he was. If Ashwin played his rugby under the banner of the non-racial SARB in the 1980’s, he could have (given his demonstrated rugby talent that took him to the top in the 2000’s), played for any of the two provincial teams or the Springboks, just like Errol Tobias, Avril Williams and Dolly Ntaka did in the 1980’s (more about them in a future blog post).

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Avril Williams and Errol Tobias playing for the Springboks against England in 1984

As to his question if Naas Botha and Nick Mallet would have played for the Springboks in the 1980’s if we entered democracy in that period, any rugby follower worth his salt would answer a definite yes. Naas is one of the few SA rugby players inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame as he was in his own right a player of exceptional talent and recognised internationally as one of the game’s best flyhalves ever. He also did not just play rugby in the Apartheid era as alleged by Ashwin Willemse, but also after 1990 when he captained the Springboks in tests against the All Blacks, Wallabies and France.

Nick Mallet played in only two tests in the 1980’s due to South Africa’s sporting isolation, but his real claim to fame is when he capably and with distinction, coached the Springboks in the post Apartheid era, and from 1998 to 2000, equaling the All Blacks long standing world record of 17 undefeated international tests. His reputation is therefore not mainly as an Apartheid era Springbok player which Ashwin referred to, but that of a post-Apartheid coach who led the Springboks in this capacity to many victories.

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Nick Mallet coaching the Springboks

Christi van der Westhuizen is also wrong in asserting that Mallett and Botha played segregated rugby in the Apartheid era (even calling it a historical fact!) as they both played under the umbrella of the non-racial SARB and with and against people of colour in the 1980’s. Her other point that white rugby players had to confront less competition during apartheid because other, possibly better, players were ruled out by their skin color, is only true as far as those rugby players that played under the banner of SARU are concerned as they, SARU, did not participate in any of the non-racial SARB competitions or rugby matches. As far as the SARB is concerned players of colour played on merit in national tournaments and some achieved national honours under their banner. I find it troubling that she nevertheless used the latter tenuous assumption as the concluding paragraph to her article, so as to impute that it was that aspect which many white people found the most upsetting.

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Naas Botha and Errol Tobias standing next to another in the Springbok team photo (they played in white in this test) for the test match against Ireland in 1981 (sorry for the bad quality, its from my personal rugby scrapbook from many years ago)

In a later article dated 28 May 2018, Pieter du Toit, the Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post wrote an article Springbok Rugby And The Meaning Of Siya Kolisi on the election of Siya Kolisi as the new Springbok captain, a selection which was widely welcomed by the rugby public. Rather than focussing on the significance of his election rugby wise as the writer of this article did Siya: A splendid moment for SA rugby, Pieter wades into political territory and inter alia had the following to say:

“But the nadir of Springbok rugby came in 1974, when Willie John McBride’s famous British Lions visited John Vorster’s South Africa and thumped the pride of Afrikanerdom (and white South Africa) four-zip. As in 4-0. It was a national crisis (my emphasis). McBride’s team was one of the first to play mixed-race teams, and Greyvenstein’s book also carries a famous picture of legendary Welsh fullback J.P.R. Williams (note – the British Lion’s player and fullback in the picture is in fact Andy Irvine and not JPR Williams) with black players from an invitational team called the Leopards (my emphasis).

It was during this time that Danie Craven, the heart and soul of South African rugby over many decades, realised that white rugby was unsustainable, and that the rugby community would have to reach out to the black and coloured rugby controlling bodies. His efforts, however, were thwarted and stalled by the petty-apartheid policy-peddling prime-ministership of BJ Vorster, and initially PW Botha as well (my emphasis).”

and ….

But our history is almost silent on black rugby (my emphasis). There have been numerous efforts to right this wrong, with academics and journalists attempting to shine a light on the black legends that surely would have made it into “Springbok Saga” if this country hadn’t been cursed with apartheid and segregation.”

Pieter describes the 1974 loss of the Springboks to the British Lions above in emotive terms such as that it was a nadir (the lowest or most unsuccessful point in a situation), that the Lions thumped the pride of Afrikanerdom (and white South Africa) four-zip, as in 4-0 and that it was a national crisis. I’m not so sure that given the language used, he means that it was a national crisis in a rugby sense (it was a rugby series after all) or for the psyche of white South Africa (as in a low point in Afrikaner superiority)? My suspicion is the latter much more than in a rugby sense. In this he is as guilty as the overseas and local liberal English press at the time who used every opportunity to have a go at those pesky bad racists Afrikaners.

He is also wrong if he feels that for the Afrikaner the loss to the Lions was seen as a low point other than in a rugby sense. I was eleven years old at the time and saw my first international rugby match when the British Lions narrowly defeated a SA Quagga Barbarian XV 20 – 16 at Ellispark on 27 June 1974. Sitting in a rigidity temporary stand erected on top of the Ellispark grandstand roof, I saw Polla Fourie (of my home town Middelburg and who played provincial rugby with my dad for South Eastern Transvaal) playing alongside players like Peter Kirsten and Gavin Cowley; and performing so well that he was selected for the Springbok team for the third test. If it was not for the referee Ian Gourley awarding a controversial try to Lions lock Gordan Brown after a clear knock on (as somebody else wrote in a comment on the article of that match “…that day Ian Gourley cost the Quagga Barbarians the match, I would have punched him myself if I was close enough”), the Quaggas would have become the first team to beat the British Lions on the tour and with two tests still remaining such a loss might have changed the outcome of the test series.

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SA Quagga Barbarian XV that played against the 1974 British Lions (Polla Fourie seated in second row far left)

I’m not aware of anybody in the rugby fraternity that saw more into the loss against the British Lions, other than that the Springboks were beaten by a brilliant rugby team that included legends of the game like JPR Williams, Gareth Edwards, Willie John McBride and Fergus Slattery. As the son of a provincial rugby player I attended many rugby matches, post rugby match functions and training exercises after the 1974 tour and never heard anything said like that the loss was a blow to Afrikanerdom, but only admiration for how good the 1974 British Lions were rugby wise and how they gave the Springboks a rugby lesson.

Pieter calls the Leopards team that played against the 1974 British Lions on 9 July 1974 an invitational team! What an insult for a team that was selected on merit as the best from all the black rugby players that played under the banner of the South African Rugby Association (SARA). The team was captained by hooker Thompson Magxala and included lock Liston Ntshongwana and Morgan Cushe at 8th Man. In their 10-56 loss to the Lions at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdtantsane, wing,  Charles Mgweba scored a try and Norman Mbiko succeeded with two penalties. Willie John McBride’s side answered with 8 tries, one by legendary scrum-half Gareth Edwards and a hat-trick by wing Tom Grace. The significance of Mgweba’s try can be measured by the fact that the Springboks had not scored any tries in the two Tests that had been played against the Lions by that time.

The British Lions face the Leopards in 1974

The 1974 British Lions in action against the Leopards

Pieter is also wrong about his assertion that BJ Vorster and PW Botha thwarted the efforts of Danie Craven. In the last year of Vorster’s rule namely 1977, the non-racial SARB was established and by the time PW Botha became Prime Minister  in 1978, it was already in existence and promoting non-racial rugby.

To say that our history is almost silent on black rugby as alleged by Pieter, may have rung true in 1994, but since then many articles and books that are freely available, have been published about the contribution of black people to rugby in South Africa since the 1886. As an avid rugby follower I have a number of these books in my study and one which I can recommend is “150 Jaar van Suid-Afrikaanse Rugby” deur Wim van der Berg.

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Fullback Andy Irvine and Leopard’s captain Thomas Magxala shaking hands – 1974

It’s however not just commentators that are not accurate with the truth when writing about rugby in South Africa in the 1980’s. On the website SA History Online which is seen as an authoritative history of South Africa with a decolonized flavor, I found the following article Timeline of the History of Rugby in South Africa in researching this blog post.

The said article contains the following two entries for the period 1981 to 1992, both of which are factually incorrect –

  1. 1981: Springboks tour New Zealand. The second match between the Springboks and All-Blacks is cancelled because hundreds of protesters occupy the pitch. None of the tests during this controversial tour were cancelled and the All Blacks beat the Springboks in two of the three tests to win a hard fought international series 2-1. Perhaps the author was thinking of the Springboks tour match against the provincial Waikato team which was cancelled after a pitch invasion by a small group of protesters.
  2. 1984-1992: South Africa banned from the International Rugby Board as a result of the nation’s continuation of apartheid policies. Not true as the SARB remained a full member of the IRB throughout it’s existence from 1889 to 1992.

All of the above points for me to an attempt to underplay the strides made in the 1980’s already to advance non-racialism in South African rugby. It minimizes what the non-racial SARB achieved from 1977 onward in this regard. The question is why this denialism on the side of some commentators and the attempts to rewrite the history of rugby in the 1980’s? For me it’s down to the desire to be politically correct and toe the line to the current dominant political ideology in South Africa.

The question should also be asked why News24 and Netwerk24 do not check articles or opinion pieces placed under their name for factual inaccuracies. I appreciate that it might be difficult to do so for opinion pieces by non-journalists, but given the proliferation of fake news articles, I feel that the media should be extra careful in this regard.

To conclude, maybe those that are so critical of South African rugby in the 1980’s like Gareth, Pieter and Christi, are not fully aware of the strides made during that period already in starting to transform the sport, which yes far from the ideal, in part laid the foundation for the post-Apartheid era of rugby in South Africa and the full unification of the sport in 1992. I will therefore in my next two blog post highlight some of the milestones achieved in this regard (whilst fully acknowledging that it will not be a complete picture as SARU did not participate in any SARB sanctioned tournaments in the 1970’s/1980’s).

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Errol Tobias playing for the Springboks in 1984 against England

The Ashwin Willemse Discussion I would love Eusebius McKaiser to listen to

NOTE – I updated the article late on 24 May 2018 to correct the wrong use of the word overt when I meant covert in the text below (apologies as English is not my first language) and to add below a link to a critique of the notion of microaggressions. 

In an earlier blog post I wrote about the huge amount of media attention the 2017 Spur incident and that of Ashwin Willemse got, compared to the meager coverage the assault on a pregnant women by the CEO of a SA Company received (The Spur Incident versus that of the Pregnant Women (and yes also that of Ashwin Willemse). In this post I will focus in more detail on the Ashwin Willemse incident and specifically on how Eusebius McKaiser on his 702 Talk Show dealt with the matter compared to a similar discussion on the topic on the Gareth Cliff Show.

I will also briefly look at Eusebius McKaiser’s interview with Kallie Kriel and what this says about him as a public talk show host and how that might have affected the audience figures of 702.

THE GARETH CLIFF SHOW

To start of herewith an audio, extracted from the discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show, on 21 May 2018.

I found the above discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show to be open and frank and taking into consideration the context within which the incident happened. This is in line with the views of  the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation, Beauty Dlulane, who said that South Africans needed to accept that differences of opinion during sports analysis were inevitable and were the reason panel discussions were constituted.

This aspect was further highlighted by the Supersport CEO Gideon Khobane, who said that Ashwin Willemse and Nick Mallet do not have to agree when talking rugby (https://www.sport24.co.za/Rugby/SuperRugby/willemse-mallett-dont-have-to-agree-supersport-20180521-2).

“In fact, it is better if they don’t. What we’ve always encouraged on our platform is for all our panelists to engage in robust debate…..They don’t have to agree … that’s the point of having three or four panelists … to get different views.”

In a short 12 minute discussion those participating in the discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show made it evident how complex the issues at hand are (compared to Eusebius McKaiser’s single narrative that I will come to later), by looking at the following aspects that all played a role in the incident (I have copied below each of the issues’, specific aspects thereof, that were raised in the discussion, sometimes verbatim):

  1. The fact that it took place in an environment and context of discussing a sport event by a panel, that by nature of the event require the panelist to differ from one another as alluded to above.
  2. The different roles and responsibilities of the panelist on the day.
    • Ashwin Willemse in this instance was the guy on the touch screen and therefore a secondary analyst (not as a person but on this show as he is required to more do the touch screen stuff) with Nick Mallet and Naas Botha being the primary analyst.
  3. The standards by which the panelist must be judged based on their roles and responsibilities on the day.
    • Ashwin Willemse never was a quota player but a dynamic rugby player. But should we care about that because in this instance he, and the other panelists are not being judged on how good he and the others were as a rugby players, but how good he and the other members are as part of a rugby panel in terms of their overall rugby knowledge, passion and appreciation.
  4. The personalities involved and how that might have played a role. 
    • Nick Mallet has a strong personality and is very knowledgeable rugby wise. He does not know when to stop and goes on and on (jokingly referred to as he listens by talking) not because he thinks he is superior, but because he is so passionate about rugby.
    • Nick Mallet is not a malicious guy but a big loud brash kind of guy who is obsessed with rugby. He often talks over people not because he is ignorant or insensitive but because that is his personality.
    • Nick Mallet will take you on which is good for TV because as the audience you want a guy who has the courage and conviction to say what he believes so what he says at times might come over as undermining. He will talk over you sometimes. He talks over Naas Botha and other panelist not in a bad way but because he is so keen to engage on rugby topics (Gareth commenting that is that not what you want from a sport panelist?)
    • Think Ashwin Willemse is not that great on TV not because he is a bad guy but he seems not to gel easily with the other panelists.
    • Naas Botha was a great rugby player but of the older generation, and therefore the TV audience don’t always relate to him.
  5. That all the facts are as yet not on the table to make an informed judgement.
    • All the facts are not yet on the table and people are therefore mainly speculating at this stage. Alleged that Ashwin Willemse was called a quota player off air and if so his actions would make sense but this is mere speculation.
  6. The history of bad vibes between Nick Mallet and Ashwin Willemse.
    • Clear that Nick Mallet and Ashwin Willemse have not exactly been the best of friends.
  7. That perhaps such disagreements on panels discussing a sport event is desirable.
    • So what are people upset about ,with one of the persons on the show saying that she likes controversy as it makes for good TV. It’s real and we find ourselves often in a work setup where people hate each other. Let that come through as it’s the truth.
    • Even on a talk show like this one of us will talk over the other sometimes, because one feels passionate about a particular topic.
  8. That the incident made people jump into their laagers based on race affinity rather than merit.
    • Sad to see that people are saying that Ashwin Willemse is on Tik.
    • People are picking sides not on merit but because Nick Mallet is white so I must support him or Ashwin Willemse is Coloured so I must support him.
  9. The need for SuperSport to shake things up irrespective of the outcome of their investigation.
    • SuperSport must perhaps shake things up as the TV audience don’t relate with Naas Botha anymore and because Nick Mallet overshadows him but you don’t see Naas complaining about it.
  10. The way in which some politicians jumped into the frying pan before having all the facts at their disposal.
    • Why did certain politicians including the Minister of Sport jump the gun and got involved before all the facts are known and thereby making it out as a malicious race matter.
  11. An acknowledgement that Ashwin Willemse was upset and had a right to voice his opinion
    • There must be a reason why Ashwin Willemse got so upset. Maybe for years he has only been seen as a secondary analyst as opposed to Nick Mallet who gets all the limelight and then he talks and talks and talks, and this made Ashwin upset.
  12. That this is rugby after all in which men’s egos plays a big role
    • This is rugby after all, this is guys with egos and all of that.
  13. That perhaps covert racism (or microaggressions to which I will come to later) did not play any role in this instance.
    • Maybe Ashwin Willemse does just not care about Nick Mallet because he feels overshadowed by him given Nick’s strong personality. Nick however does the same to Naas Botha so it’s difficult to see covert racism on the part of Nick and Naas as the main issue at play.

The above 13 issues or aspects were in the main largely ignored by Eusebius McKaiser in his show to which I will come to next.

THE EUSEBIUS MCKAISER TALK SHOW

Herewith a link to the discussion of Eusebius McKaiser on the same topic that also took place on 21 May 2018. The discussion went on for some 30+ minutes with Eusebius taking calls from a number of audience members.

Eusebuis McKaiser – #ImAshwinWillemse

The main gist of the discussion on the Eusebius McKaiser Talk Show was that people of colour experience microaggressions in SA on a daily basis that are condescending and patronizing and which denies them their humanity and rightful place in society.

A microaggression is defined as a subtle (tone of voice, mannerisms, body language, subtle actions etc.)  but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group (whilst people of colour are in this instance in the majority and politically dominant they are seen still to be in a non-dominant position economically. Even so I find the definition quoted enlightening as it alludes to minorities and not majorities as a group of people that can also suffer microaggressions in society at large) that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a given or known stereotype (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/microaggression).

The concept of microaggressions are not with its critics as alluded to in the following article:

The trouble with ‘microaggressions’

The article references a 2017 academic article that offers the most serious and sustained critique of the microaggression concept to date. Its author, Emory University psychologist Scott Lilienfield, casts a critical eye over the concept and the evidence on which it rests. He question how microaggressions are defined and assessed. He observes that the concept’s meaning is nebulous, to the point that there is no agreed understanding of what it includes and excludes. Any manner of experiences could in principle find shelter under its broad umbrella.

The article conclude that “microaggression” is not the best way to think about subtle prejudice. Its definition is amorphous and elastic. It fails to appreciate the ambiguity of social interaction, relies too exclusively on subjective perceptions, and too readily ascribes hostile intent. By doing so, the idea of microaggression contributes to a punitive and accusatory environment that is more likely to create backlash than social progress.

Despite of the above critique of the concept, and given our Apartheid past, I would agree that microaggressions (or then subtle prejudiced or covert racism) against people of colour happens on a daily basis and that this needs to be challenged, but find it difficult to accept that what happened in the SuperSport studio automatically qualifies the discussion as such. I have also listened and viewed the video of the incident again and again with a very attentive ear to try and pick up any microaggressions and acts, whether covert or not, on the part of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha that can be viewed as either condescending or patronizing.

Other than the presenter and Naas Botha giving Ashwin Willemse the opportunity to contribute first, which Ashwin Willemse might have construed as patronizing, but which might just as well have been an honest attempt to allow him more airtime, and Nick Mallet and Naas Botha laughing when Ashwin declined to contribute and when he was about to walk out, which could be viewed as condescending but also perhaps just an attempt to defuse what was a very difficult situation to handle, I found it difficult therefore to identify any specific microaggressions.

Nick

Shapiro in the cartoon above lists what he feels could have been microaggressions at play in this instance. In my view these mostly have to do with the environment within which a sport panel has to discuss a sport event; which, as pointed out in the discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show, is prone to be disagreeable (who was the man of the match, did the referee handle the match well, is player X the best in his position versus player Y, is the coach the best man for the job etc.) and based on the differing personalities of the panelist and their intimate knowledge of, and passion for the sport.

When aimed at people of colour microaggressions are also often called covert racism, however both the CEO of Supersport and Multichoice (both persons of colour) said after  the discussions that took place on Monday between Ashwin Willemse, Nick Mallet and Naas Botha; that they do not believe racism to have played a part in Ashwin Willemse walking off set on Saturday night. Therefore in their view racism played no part in the incident, which is directly the opposite of Eusebius McKaiser’s viewpoint.

I did not listen to the Eusebius McKaiser Talk Show on 23 May 2018, but according to a Facebook post he had a go, in a lengthy monologue, at the CEO’s of Supersport and Multichoice and what he called “1652” Twitter (as opposed to I would guess “Black Twitter”)  that reveled in the fact that two Black CEO’s found no racism in the Ashwin Willemse walk off from the SuperSport set.  According to the Facebook post Eusebius McKaiser basically dished the two Black CEO’s for not being friends of Black people and for being under the influence of White businessmen – I presume he is referring to Koos Bekker in this instance. If the above representation is an accurate reflection then I want to say if this is not patronizing, then I don’t know what is.

Subsequently to writing the above paragraph I came across the following article that sets out Eusebius McKaiser’s views on what the two Black CEO’s said:

Eusebius: ‘I think the CEOs of MultiChoice and Supersport were pathetic’

So the fact that two black men can categorically say that there is no racial undertones is not the end of the matter. Sometimes black people get it wrong.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

Sometimes as a black CEO, when we have incredible proximity to white power, and to CEOs and owners of companies, we don’t necessarily own our truth.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

The article and above two quotes from it confirms what has been recorded in the Facebook post, and makes me stand by my view that Eusebius McKaiser himself is guilty of being extremely patronizing and condescending (having or showing an attitude of patronizing superiority) towards the CEO’s of Supersport and Multichoice. He is basically saying “Sies man! Julle twee CEO’s weet nie wat dit is om n goeie Swartman te wees nie”.

For Eusebius McKaiser the fact that Ashwin Willemse received so much support from people of colour is clear and substantial proof that he was on the receiving of microaggressions and that he therefore should be saluted as a hero.

The reasons why tens of thousands of black South Africans, in particular, are, as The Star rightly says this morning, saluting Willemse as a hero, is not because we are race bating white people. You think we have got nothing better to do with our time than to race bate white people, absolutely not.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

What the above comment fails to highlight is that the support received might just as well have been the end result of people of all backgrounds (black and white) falling back into our own racial laagers when confronted with an incident involving perceived racism, without waiting for more facts to come to the fore in terms of what actually happened. A majority point of view is also not necessarily the morally correct point of view, just like if most South African’s is to be polled, they would perhaps agree with the reinstatement of the death penalty to curb rampant crime in South Africa, whilst a valid point of view, but as such would be not in line with the values contained in our Constitution.

I will later look in more detail at the audience figures of 702 that stands at a mere 471 000 compared to South Africa’s biggest radio station Ukhozi FM with 7 274 000 listeners, and its therefore dangerous for Eusebius McKaiser to take what is said on his talk show to be representative of the feelings of the rest of South Africa.

Eusebius McKaiser also made a big issue that he did not have to know what happened before and after the show on SuperSport to have an opinion on the matter.

The idea that I need to know what happened before the point at which this particular video surfaces before I can have an opinion is BS.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

So is he is saying that the context does not matter as he, just by being a person of colour can deduce what went on in the studio (some lekker supernatural powers that), without knowing the full facts? This is also strange coming from Eusebius as just a week before he agreed 100% with a Constitutional Court judgement which said that the context (what happened before, during and after the incident) was all important in deciding that when a White man stormed into a meeting and said “Se vir daai Swartman hy moet sy voertuig verwyder”, that it was racist and that his employer was therefore within their rights in dismissing him from their employment. I wonder what happened from last week to this week to change his attitude so radically?

ON ASHWIN WILLEMSE 

The points I highlight above in relation to Eusebius McKaiser, is not to say that I deny that Ashwin Willemse must have had a reason to be upset and that he therefore acted untoward. To the contrary I have empathy with how he felt as its out of character of him to become upset in this manner. As pointed out in the following article we ” “…cannot doubt Ashwin’s integrity on this … he clearly felt something (through his actions on live television on Saturday) very profoundly.”

Ashwin courageous, sincere: conflict expert

Its also clear that the incident and what happened resonated with many South Africans, and even though I believe that in this instance it had nothing to do with covert racism, what happened nevertheless sends a strong signal to especially White South Africans that we sometimes unknowingly, diminish the identities of people of colour and that we must guard against this.

What I do have an issue with is Eusebius McKaiser’s singular narrative to try and explain what happened without taking the wider issues into consideration, which as I alluded to above can be as many as 13 different aspects, but perhaps even more that I could not think of whilst writing this article, all that must be taken into consideration.

In the article above the author also highlights that this “……hit Naas and Nick like a bolt from the blue. They, too, will have feelings that need to be respected, given the public nature of the event … they may have played their rugby under apartheid, but they are giants of the game who deserve respect.”.

This aspect brings me to another angle to the matter that I have not seen highlighted anywhere else and that is how Ashwin Willemse, granted when being upset, infringed on the dignity, respect and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha by attacking their reputation as rugby players who played rugby only in the Apartheid era. As for Naas Botha he is one of the few SA rugby players inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame as he was in his own right a player of exceptional talent and recognised internationally as one of the games best flyhalves. He also did not just play rugby in the Apartheid era but also after 1990 when he captained the Springboks in tests against the All Blacks, Wallabies and France.

As for Nick Mallet he played in only two tests in the 1980’s due to South Africa’s sporting isolation, but his real claim to fame is when he capably and with distinction, coached the Springboks in the post Apartheid era, and from 1998 to 2000 equaling the All Blacks long standing world record of 17 undefeated international tests. His reputation is therefore not mainly as a Springbok player, but that of a post Apartheid coach who led the Springboks in this capacity to many victories.

RADIO 702 AUDIENCE FIGURES

Many point to Eusebius McKaiser as a factor in the stagnation, if not decline, of 702 as a once very popular talk show radio station. In a recent Facebook post not one person contributing felt that he has an open mind and that he does not push only his own narrative at the expense of those that call in to contribute to an open and fair debate (and this was not on a Facebook page of some right wing group, but a group that is dedicated to liberal ideals).

EM

This is borne out by the latest available audience figures released as recent as March 2018 by the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa in its Radio Audience Measurement (What the latest RAM tells us about radio ). Whilst 702 has shown a moderate 10% increase in their audience figures from October 2016 to December 2017, when one looks at the period of April 2017 to December 2017, their audience figures have stayed stagnant at 471 000. Its also telling that a fairly unknown radio station like trufm showed at remarkable 45% growth over the same period and the more well known Gagasi FM a growth of 26% to reach an audience of 1 680 000 people.

Radio 702 audience figure of 471 000 also fades away when compared to the giants of SA radio like Ukhozi FM with 7 274 400 listeners, followed by Umhlobo Wenene FM with an audience figure of 5 506 000. Even the Afrikaans radio station RSG has an audience figure nearly three times that of 702 namely 1 273 000 and this station in the eight place of the top 10 radio stations in South Africa (702 does not feature in the top 10).

EUSEBIUS MCKAISER AND THE KALLIE KRIEL DEBATE

Another example of how Eusebius McKaiser pushes a one-sided narrative, is his debate with Kallie Kriel on 14 May 2018. Following his interview with Kriel and other panelist Adam Habib and Elmien du Plessis, I made a conscious effort to listen to the whole podcast to find out what happened and the exact sequence of events. Herewith some of my immediate observations that I dotted down as I was listening and going through the podcast (I made many more observations however I have copied below only those that directly relate to Eusebius):

  • Busy listening to it – The way Eusebius Hmm and Ah every time he agrees with a caller is killing me. Bias?
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius says he is struggling to understand the Afriforum methodology in using the data and assumptions made, when Kallie has clearly explained it, namely the number of farm murders that they are aware of divided by the farm population (and even acknowledging that this latter part is a problem because of lack of accurate government data) to give a murder rate per the farming population group.
  • Busy listening to it – Oh hell here comes Johan Pienaar on the line. This debate can only go South from here onward. Pienaar encouraged all his followers on social media to take on AfriForum before this show was even broadcasted as a way to neutralize their recent initiatives.
  • Busy listening to it – Johan Pienaar “Afriforum employs White people mainly. Why are other minorities not employed by them” he asks? Goes on to state that non-white members of Afriforum are only token members – what a racist statement! So, members of other minority groups don’t have the capacity to decide for themselves which organizations they want to belong to and which will serve their purpose best according to Johan! They are only stooges in Pienaar’s estimation.
  • Busy listening to it – Pienaar says it’s a case of smoke and mirrors and Eusebius utters his now familiar Hmm to indicate that he agrees. Independence and objectivity as the host of a public talk show?
  • Busy listening to it – Pienaar says that people are acting racist when commenting on social media and responding to Adam Habib and Elmien du Plessis but that Afriforum is doing nothing about it. Common Johan! I have seen the same happening from people from all walks of life on social media and from supporters of the ANC, EFF and DA (and others). How do you expect these organizations, including Afriforum, to police or to be held accountable for what their supporters say on social media platforms? Eusebius does not challenge him on this.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius asking Johan why is so many people in the white community allowing Afriforum to set the agenda? Stupid question! Obviously, many white people are concerned about what is going on in South Africa and feel, rightly or wrongly, that Afriforum is best placed to protect their rights as citizens of SA!
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius admitting that many academics are not willing to come on his show! Perhaps he should reflect on his own biases and style as a talk show host to find the answer.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius giving acres of airtime to Johan Pienaar who has his own personal agenda against Afriforum. Eusebius allows him to make follow up comments and input and then start engaging him in a debate between the two of them ignoring his guests who he has invited to participate in the show!
  • Busy listening to it – Pienaar says the Afrikaans media is turning to Afriforum because they, the media, are under financial pressure and they know that Afriforum has money to throw around (yeah right in today’s economic client), hence it makes sense to give media exposure to Afriforum as it pays the bills. Eusebius remarks WOW (bias?) rather than questioning Pienaar’s wild assertion. Is the actual truth not that the Afrikaans media realize that Afriforum speaks to the heart of things that concerns many Afrikaners currently and that it therefore make sense to cover what they, Afriforum, do and say?
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius giving Pienaar even more airtime (when is he going to go back to his guests?). Pienaar saying that the directors of Radio Pretoria include some of Afriforum’s leaders and that they, Radio Pretoria, are in direct opposition to Radio Jacaranda. Question is so what even if Afriforum previously challenged what a presenter on Jacaranda once said? Eusebius again goes WOW!. Bias?
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius saying – “thank you Johan much appreciated” after he has given him more than 7 minutes of airtime on a 30-minute talk show. At least apologizing to Kallie that a lot was said (but why did you then give Johan Pienaar so much airtime in the first place Eusebius?).
  • Busy listening to it – Here it comes! Eusebius asking, with only 3 minutes left, if Afriforum has evolved its views and agree that Apartheid was a crime against humanity. Not a lot of time to have a nuanced debate I would think.
  • Busy listening to it – To be fair Eusebius surprisingly just uttered an Hmm when Kallie mentioned the extreme torture that often accompanies farm murders.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius asking Elmien to wrap up. She warns about the one-story narrative and asks how can we speak about this complexity? Valid point from my point of view. Eusebius says, “absolutely and beautifully put”. That’s OK and cool but I have never heard him utter those same words to anybody who has made a logic counter argument to his own views.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius asking Adam Habib for his closing comments (strange how he has not taken Habib on at all in this interview about his rather insensitive tweet comparing Afriforum to Hitler and Idi Amin without any justification).
  • Busy listening to it – Habib blaming Afriforum for academics not being willing to come out and talk on Eusebius’s show. WOW my estimation of this man is going down the tube at a rate of knots. Blanket statement with no evidence to back it up. If he is one of our leading academics, then I don’t know!
  • Busy listening to it – Kallie thanked by Eusebius but not given an opportunity to provide closing comments. Rather strange I would think.
  • Finished listening to it – so what can I say in summary then? Apart for the one idiotic statement and the fact that he is not the best of public speakers, Kallie said a lot that made sense. Even so the harm has been done. Habib just irritated me and like somebody else said he clearly does not know what fascism is and is throwing it around like a frisbee hoping somebody might catch it. Also, worried if he is the standard of academic that we must look up to. As for Elmien she was for me the voice of reason in this debate, but was given way too little airtime by Eusebius who preferred to give biased Johan Pienaar an overdose of time to contribute (he and Afriforum has got an ongoing battle of ideas which I’m convinced Eusebius must be aware of, hence perhaps taking his call over many others that must have been waiting patiently in line to contribute to the discussion). As for Eusebius I will rather spare myself the pain of listening to many of his shows unless it’s a topic that interest me. Why he was playing dumb when Kallie explained their methodology and acting like he didn’t get an answer, perfectly sums up his performance for me.”

I deliberately left out above my views of what Kallie Kriel said about Apartheid as a crime against humanity during the interview to reflect on it last and before I’m accused of being a racist and Apartheid denialist. This is what I noted down at the time:

  • Busy listening to it – Kallie Kriel “I disagree that it was a crime against humanity”. Seriously Kallie? I know and appreciate that the decision by the UN in 1973 to declare Apartheid a crime against humanity was filled with irony in that almost all the countries who voted in favour of the deceleration, and especially the two who proposed the motion namely the USSR and Guinea, were themselves one party communist dictatorships and that the citizens of such countries had no freedoms or rights, but you should know that two wrongs does not make a right.
  • Yes Kallie, I agree that perhaps communism should also have been declared a crime against humanity given its oppressive nature and the number of people killed in its name (yes I know millions more than that died under apartheid but one can’t just measure oppression in terms of numbers of people killed, much more important is the daily discrimination and humiliation that Black people suffered daily under Apartheid, you should know this Kallie from our own history and how our forefathers were humiliated when the British imperialist considered all Afrikaners to be uncivilized), but to argue accordingly in this day and age is not going to take South Africa forward.

For two excellent and balanced contributions on the matter of Apartheid as a crime against humanity see the following articles:

IN SUMMARY

Too conclude, I agree that talk show hosts like Eusebius McKaiser and Gareth Cliff can and must have an opinion of their own, but in the role they play in facilitating and guiding the public discourse, they must be careful not to allow their own views to become the dominant narrative or the only consideration, whether in what they say or in their mannerisms or how they treat callers on their shows. Eusebius McKaiser, in my mind, oversteps the mark on this unfortunately more often than not as I have hopefully demonstrated above by what unfolded in the Ashwin Willemse debate and that of Apartheid as a crime against humanity with Kallie Kriel and others.

The Spur Incident versus that of the Pregnant Women (and yes also that of Ashwin Willemse)

On the morning of 8 May 2018 I shared the meme below on a Facebook Group highlighting how the media reacted to the Spur incident in 2017, compared to the recent assault on a pregnant woman. Granted, the meme is an over simplification of both incidents but nevertheless brings home an important issue in the current South African context and that is the double standard evident in how our media are reporting on incidents like these.

32090038_10156299579328749_6906968497629167616_n

For those that don’t know what happened in the Pregnant Women incident, see the video below:

Many disagreed with the meme and I therefore decided to do a little experiment to demonstrate how the SA media reports on incidents like these. I did a Google search for the “Spur racial incident or attack” and for “pregnant women assault Featherbrooke village” (I included the Featherbrooke village part so that I don’t get search results for pregnant women assaults in general) and I then noted the number of results found in Google.

Disclaimer – I fully realize that such an approach is not perfect as it depends on the exact search terms used, the location parameters set and the date ranges etc. The idea however was not to undertake scientific research but to get a general idea of what was reported and the frequency thereof. I tried to be as consistent as possible when doing the searches so as to use the same parameters for both incidents, however when I subsequently repeated the searches, I sometimes got differing results, but even when looking at these differences the disproportionate reporting between the two incidents was still clearly evident.

I first did a search for the “Spur racial incident or attack” and Google returned 306 000 results. I then did a search for “pregnant women assault Featherbrooke village” and only 9 030 results popped up.

Some people rightly pointed out on Facebook that the incident with the pregnant women only happened recently so it’s unfair to compare its total news coverage with that of the Spur incident that happened in 2017. So, to even the playing field I tried the following – The Spur incident happened on the 19 March 2017 and hit the news on 21 March 2017. So, I did two Google searches, one for the period 21/22 March 2017 and found 103 results on the Spur incident for the said two days and for the period of 21 – 28 March 2017 I found 180 results for the seven-day period.

The pregnant women assault incident happened on 25 April 2018 but only hit the news on 1 May 2018. So, I again did two Google searches one for the period 1/2 May 2018, and found only 4 results on the pregnant women assault incident for the said two days and for the period of 1 to 8 May 2018 I found only 50 results for the seven-day period. The Spur incident within 2 days garnered 25 times more news coverage than the pregnant women incident and nearly 4 times as much coverage over a period of one week.

I did a few further searches thereafter for both incidents for a period longer than just one week and up to one month after each incident, and it was clear that whereas the Spur incident exploded in terms of its media coverage (picking up to over 3 000 search results), the reporting on the pregnant women incident barely registered any increased coverage staying around +/- 100 search results.

Glaring also was the absence of reporting (at least until the morning 9 May 2018) of the pregnant women incident in some of our media and comparing how many times other media houses reported on both incidents. I found 8 160 results when I checked how many times the Daily Maverick either reported on the Spur incident or was quoted for reporting on it but no results for the Daily Maverick for the pregnant women incident by the 9th. Similarly, I found 15 500 results for News24 for the Spur incident but only 459 such results for the pregnant women assault. I found 32 000 results for the Spur incident referencing City Press but none such for the pregnant women incident. For the Huffington Post I found a staggering 60 900 results for the Spur incident when I checked how many times the Huffington Post either reported on the Spur incident or was quoted for reporting on it, but only 1 for the pregnant women assault to date and that’s when cartoonist Jerm commented on the matter on his Facebook page somehow referencing the Huffington Post.

When one compares the headlines used when reporting the two incidents some glaring differences also comes to the fore. For the Spur incident – “Spur Racial Attack (EWN)”, Spur bowed to racist pressure (Huffington Post)”, “Spur Group probing racism claim (IOL)”, “Spur blamed for condoning racism (The South African)”, “How a right wing boycott has lost Spur Millions (Daily Maverick)”, “What the Spur boycott has taught black women (Women24)”, “Spur apologizes to SA for racial spat”, “Spur people – with a taste for white male violence (The Daily Vox)” etc. Compare that to the language used when reporting on the pregnant women incident – “CEO suspended after assaulting pregnant women (Times Live)”, “Man opens case of crimen injuria against assaulted pregnant women (Citizen)” with most other media articles following more or less the same headlines. It’s easy to spot the differences in the way the two incidents were reported in the media.

Lastly, I looked at how the two incidents were reported upon from a race perspective in the leading paragraphs of such news articles. From the Mail and Guardian (22 March 2017) reporting on the Spur incident – “Footage of a white man threatening a black woman at Spur’s branch in the Glen shopping mall has gone viral this week and has been greeted with outrage across the country.” versus the first paragraph from the Times Live (8 May 2018) “A man caught on CCTV footage assaulting a pregnant woman at Featherbrooke Village Mall in Ruimsig west of Johannesburg has been suspended as chief executive officer of Novare Consultants with immediate effect.” Note how for the one incident the race of both the alleged perpetrator and victim is clearly highlighted, whereas for the second incident not a word about the race of either the alleged perpetrator or victim. I found this to be the overall general trend in how these two incidents were reported in the media.

Renaldo Gouws in a video on his YouTube channel (copied below) asked the same questions and why people are hardly aware of the pregnant women incident and why there was no major outrage –

The above results although not scientific, raises serious questions as to the motives of the media when reporting on incidents involving different race groups. Why the double standards and lack of equal treatment?

The same double standards were pointed out in a report compiled by the Solidarity Research Institute in 2017 (see the following links for more information):

In conclusion I wonder what the results would be, if somebody better equipped than me, do a similar comparison of the coverage of the two incidents on social media and the language used in these interactions?

Postscript – As I was writing this post the Ashwim Willemse incident where he walked out of the Supersport studio made main headlines news. For those that’s not familiar with what happened see the following video wherein Renaldo Gouws gives his own views on the incident  –

Just for interest sake I did a Google search on “Ashwin Willemse Supersport Mallet” limited to 19/20 May 2018 and was startled to find 3 090 results. So an incident where a women is assaulted only resulted in 4 Google search results in two days, compared to 3 090 results for an incident in which nobody was assaulted?